User Experience and Software
By and large, we're glad Dell stuck with the basics here. It's a fairly stock version of Windows 8.1, with the only notable bloatware being McAfee LiveSafe. Beyond that annoying pop-up coaxing you to extend the 12-month subscription that's included, you won't find any software that you weren't expecting. Skype and a link to install Dropbox are here, but at least on the Dropbox side you'll get an extra 20GB for a minimal amount of sign-in effort.
The Inspiron 13 7000 is a good fit for the "newer" Windows desktop, which leans heavily on touch and tiles. The touch panel is highly responsive, and it's tailor-made for navigating through programs in this manner. Switch the more classic Desktop, and things begin to feel at home when it's situated as a laptop. Our year-old gripes that Windows 8 feels too conjoined and cluttered remain, and those unfamiliar with the dual paradigms will still be understandably muffed at how the two worlds intersect. (For example, an Internet Explorer window opened from a tile doesn't translate to the IE loaded on the classic Desktop.)
We're expecting much of the confusion to fade once Windows 10 arrives this summer, though. For what it's worth, the innards in our test unit were more than capable of running Windows 8.1 with aplomb. We credit most of the quickness to the fast processor and 256GB Samsung SSD, which (sadly) isn't available as an option on the standard Inspiron 13 7000. Once you've tasted the speed gains afforded by an SSD, it's really tough to stomach a conventional hard drive. We'd encourage anyone tempted by this particular unit to save up and splurge on the SSD. The difference in speed is remarkable, and it really makes the software experience so much more fluid from top to bottom.
We can't help but point out that the power of this machine comes at a cost: you'll hear fans spin up and churn on a regular basis. Regardless of whether we were gaming, watching HD video, or just browsing the Web with a few apps open in the background, fans would kick on every few minutes. Under duress, the fans stay on constantly, and they're clearly audible. For businesspeople who plan to use this as a presentation tool, this is worth considering. You can bet that midway through the presentation, fan noise will become a subtle nuisance. For what it's worth, heat isn't as big of an issue. The palm rest and keyboard surrounding never became warm to the touch, though the bottom did get a little toasty after extended use.